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Where Do Cut Crystal Figurines Come From?
Cut crystal figurines
Crystal and glass figurines have been made over the centuries. Famous manufacturers of crystal figurines are for example Lalique, Baccarat, Daum and Cristallerie d’Argues. These are beautiful sculptures made of glass or crystal and they represent people, animals, flowers, etc.
But these aren’t the kind of crystal figurines we’re talking about here. Cut crystal figurines are made from lead crystal stones, fully cut. Due to the use of a high lead content in the crystal, the light is reflected, actually refracted, and this results in a beautiful range of colors.
Basically, these figurines are made up of cut crystal lamp pendants and cut crystal beads, glued together in such a way that they represent for example an animal or a flower. But that was basically it. Modern cut crystal figurines are made from specially cut crystal components.
The history of glass cutting
Bohemia was the area where most glass and crystal cutting was concentrated in the 19th century. They produced most crystal pendants for chandeliers and also cut crystal beads and pendants for the jewelry and fashion industry.
Cutting and polishing glass and crystal stones was a tedious job and needed a lot of skill in those days.
The son of one of the best Bohemian glass cutters in the mid-19th century was a young man named Daniel Swarovski.
After a visit to an exhibition in Vienna in 1883, he became obsessed with the possibilities of electricity. He wanted to use electricity to power the tedious process of cutting glass. He succeeded after nine years of experiments! and could patent the first semi-automatic, electrically driven, glass and crystal cutter.
This was such a revolutionary invention that it changed the glass cutting industry forever. His machine could cut glass and crystal much more accurately and at a much higher speed than the hand cutting method.
Crystal cutting perfection
After the invention of cutting technology with electric drive, Daniel Swarovski did not stop inventing. He started a factory where he constantly improved the cut, but where he also mastered the production of perfect crystal, with a high lead content.
His jewelry stones made him the number one supplier to the fashion industry in Paris. All the famous couturiers used his cut crystal stones and Swarovski became a well-known brand.
The Swarovski Company never stopped developing new ways to make better crystal and new ways to cut crystal better. Needless to say, they are still the #1 crystal cutting company in the world today.
The first cut crystal figurine
Not too long ago, in fact in 1976, the first commercial cut crystal figurine was made and, again, it was made by the Swarovski company.
In 1976 the Winter Olympics were held in Innsbruck, Austria, not far from the Swarovski factories (Wattens, Austria). Swarovski designer Max Schreck made a mouse out of cut crystal stones, and it became a bestseller during the games soon after it was released.
The reason it took so long before the first cut crystal figurine saw the light of day is because, until the early seventies, there was no glue that could hold the stones together. The adhesive is a solution of an acrylate that hardens into a clear acrylic substance under UV rays. This type of Chemistry was developed only after World War II.
A smaller version of the original mouse is still available and is sold under the name ‘replica mouse’. The mouse replica is no longer alone. The collection of Swarovski crystal cut figurines is still growing and the beautiful cut crystal figurines depict themes from the world of flora and fauna, childhood memories, Christmas themes and more.
Famous brands for cut crystal figurines
The most famous brand is undoubtedly Swarovski. There is an entire army of collectors of about 325,000 people who are members of the Swarovski Crystal Society. Being a member of the world’s largest collectors’ society makes it possible to purchase limited editions. Limited editions are special models that are produced only in limited quantities.
Many companies have started making cut crystal figurines since Swarovski started with their collection. And many of them have stopped after a while.
Making cut crystal figurines is not just about gluing some stones together. The companies that have survived the past four decades and are still producing cut crystal figurines are the companies that have put a lot of effort into design and quality.
Preciosa from the Czech Republic is one such company. They have a huge collection of beautifully designed figurines and also use the best crystal for it. After all, Preciosa is the #2 crystal cutting company in the world and they have a name to live up to.
Crystal World is another top brand. This company, with a team of Japanese designers, has been making beautiful pieces since it was founded by Rudy (Ryuyu) Nakai in 1983 in the United States.
In Egypt is the Asfour company. Asfour is like Swarovski and Preciosa also a giant crystal cutting company. Asfour also makes a high quality crystal and they design beautiful crystal figurines.
You will find other manufacturers of crystal figurines in other countries, but usually they are not as specialized as the four companies above. China and Turkey have many manufacturers of crystal figurines. Some of these companies have beautiful designs, but for most of them, crystal figurines are not their main business, and they usually offer a variety of other crystal products alongside the figurines.
Cut crystal figurines have a magical appeal to many people. The clarity of the material, the refraction of light in many colors and the timeless designs make people want to surround themselves with them.
What once began as a single crystal mouse in Austria in 1976 is now collected by hundreds of thousands of people around the world and brings joy every day to many. We can only thank the innovative, world-renowned crystal cutting company Swarovski for inventing cut crystal figurines that bring that special touch to many people’s lives.
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